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Livingston

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Livingston ('Leving's town,' after a Fleming of that name who settled here about the time of Alexander I.), a parish with a village of the same name near the middle of the SE border of the county of Linlithgow. It is bounded NE by Uphall parish, E and SE by the county of Edinburgh, SW by Whitburn parish, and NW by the parishes of Bathgate and Ecclesmachan. On the SE the boundary follows the course of the river Almond from a point almost 1 mile due E of Livingston church, up to the junction with Breich Water, and then follows the course of the latter stream for 3½ miles, till near Auchinhard the parish of Whitburn is reached. From this it passes 5 furlongs NNW to the SE branch of Foulshiels Burn, down which it passes to the Almond and up the Almond to a point 2½ furlongs due W of Riddoch-hill. Elsewhere, except at the N corner where it touches Brox Burn, the boundary is purely artificial and very irregular, the general shape of the parish showing two compact portions to the NE and SW, united -by a narrow neck in the centre. The greatest length, from NNE at Dechmont Toll to SSW on the Breich above Auchinhard, is 5¾ miles; the breadth varies from 3 miles to 5 furlongs; and the area is 5391 acres, 28¾ being water, and 5362¼ land, of which about 400 acres are under wood, and the rest is either arable or good pasture. The average height of the land above sea-level is from 400 to 500 feet, the highest elevations being 525 feet to the N of Blackburn village., and Dechmont Law (686) in the NE, the latter, which is volcanic, rising very abruptly and commanding an extensive view. The soil varies very considerably, passing from strong clay and rich loam to poor, thin, clayey, and moorish ground, but is on the whole good. The underlying rocks are sandstone, limestone, volcanic rocks, and coal; and all belong to the Carboniferous period. The beds of economic value-oil shale-are all worked along the SW and S; and at Blackburn there is a bed of a particular kind of volcanic rock known as pikrite, or lakestone, or ovenstone, which has been found very suitable for the construction of ovens, and which has long been largely quarried; the quarry is now partly in Whitburn parish. The drainage is carried off by the river Almond and by Breich Water, and the burns that flow into them, the principal being the Foulshiels and Bickerton Burns on the SW, Dean Burn to the W of Cousland, Lochshot Burn to the W and Folly Burn to the E of Livingston village. The total length of the course of the Almond through or along the border of the parish is 6 miles. To the E of the village stood the peel-of Linlithgow, which was a tower defended by an earthen rampart and a wide fosse, traces of which remained till the middle of last century. It was deemed of sufficient importance to be garrisoned by Edward I. in 1302. A mansion, N of the village, was pulled down shortly after the late Earl of Rosebery acquired the estate in 1812. The garden of the old mansion-house contained, about the middle of the 17th century, a large typical collection of plants, forming a sort of botanic garden, and amounting to about 1000 species-for those days a very large number. It was formed by Sir Patrick Murray of Livingston, one of the most promising men of science of his time, who died, while quite a young man, during a journey on the Continent, undertaken for the purpose of increasing his botanical knowledge. The plants were then removed to Edinburgh by Sir Andrew Balfour, and formed a large proportion of those with which the first Botanic Garden of that city-the Old Physic Gardens-was stocked in 1670. A number of uncommon plants that had escaped from the garden are still to be found in the neighbourhood. One mile NNE of the village, at the farmhouse of Newyearfield, a square tower, said to have been one of the hunting seats of the Scottish kings, remained down till about the close of last century. There is a well close by, the water of which, sprinkled on patients with the sovereign's own hand before sunrise on the first morning of a new year, was accounted a remedy for the king's evil. Of the Leving who bestowed his name on the parish, nothing is known, but Thurstanus -filius Levingi witnessed a charter of Robert, Bishop of St Andrews, confirming a grant of the church to the monks of Holyrood, made by David I. The district also gave the title of Baron to the Livingstones, Earls of Linlithgow. The earldom was given in 1600 to Alexander, the seventh baron; and the fifth and last earl was attainted for his share in the rebellion of 1715. The lady celebrated in song as ` the bonnie lass o' Livingstone,' is said to have kept an inn at the old village of Livingston, about a mile to the W of the present village, which was then the Kirkton. The principal mansions are Blackburn House, Dechmont House, and Westwood. The parish is traversed by two of the main lines of road from Edinburgh to Glasgow, one passing for 4¾ miles across the centre and S, from 1 mile E of the village of Livingston to the bridge across the Almond at the village of Blackburn, and the other by Dechmont on the N to Bathgate; and also by the Edinburgh and Bathgate branch of the North British railway system, which passes through the northern part for 2½ miles. Livingston station, 4½ miles ESE of Bathgate on this line, and Newpark and Midcalder stations on the Caledonian system, which skirts the parish on the S, afford means of access, though they are from 1½ to 4 miles distant from the village. A mineral loop of the Caledonian also passes through the S end.

Besides the village of the same name the parish also contains the hamlet of Dechmont in the N, and part of the village of Blackburn on the SW. The village of Livingston itself, near the centre of the SE side of the parish, is merely the kirkton of the parish. It has a post office under Midcalder, and an inn. The parish church was rebuilt in 1732, and repaired in 1837,- and contains 263 sittings: the silver communion cups have the inscription-` -Gifted by Sir Patrick Murray of Livingstoun, 1696.' The Free church, built in 1844, is at the E end of the village. The school board have under their charge Livingston and Blackburn public schools, and these, with accommodation for 116 and 180 respectively, had in 1883 attendances of 130 and 80, and grants of £102, 7s. and £62, 15s. The parish, which is in the presbytery of Linlithgow and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, was once a vicarage of Holyrood, and prior to 1730 comprehended also the whole of Whitburn parish. The living is worth £234 a year. The industries are agriculture, mining, and a papermill at Blackburn, a cotton-mill at the same place having been burned down in 1876. The principal proprietor is the Earl of Rosebery. Valuation (1860) £6750, (1884) £11,909, 13s. 2d. Pop. (1801) 551, (1831) 1035, (1861) 1366, (1871) 1727, (1881) 1484, of whom 730 were males and 754 females. The decrease is mainly due to the burning of the cotton-mill at Blackburn.—Ord. Sur., shs. 32, 31, 1857-67.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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